I write a wildly popular and critically acclaimed blog that is beloved by nearly every man, woman and literate baby on the planet. You know this. I know this. Your mom knows this. What your mom also knows is that, from time to time, I let things slip through the cracks. I apologize for that. On occasion, I have been known to, erm, forget to update you all on what I’ve been up to. Sometimes I work in secret. Listen, pals, I agree: that’s a terrible habit to have when you’re a DIY blogger who makes a six-figure living writing instructional how-to’s for anonymous people to disparage over the Internet. I blame my parents. Truthfully, I point the finger at them for a lot of things that have gone wrong in my life–missed opportunities, failed relationships, bootcut jeans–and I could go into why they are responsible for all that stuff but that would be long and bitter and not becoming of me. The simple fact is they are not here to defend themselves. They live across the country and this is my blog and I can do what I want, so if I’ve done something to offend you just shake your fists at the heavens and yell through clenched teeth, “DAMN YOU, EVAN’S MOM AND DAD! DAMN YOU FOR ALWAYS BEING THERE FOR HIM! MAY LUCIFER HAVE MERCY ON YOUR ROTTEN, WELL-INTENTIONED AND SOULS!”
Feel better? I do.
So, yea, occasionally I do secret things and occasionally I don’t write them down. But, like you, I’m only half-human. I can only keep so many secrets to myself before bursting at my cyborg seams! Now that Gone Girl is out and I’ve been asked by 1) friends 2) family and 3) random passers-by on the street (who try to tell me I don’t need to yell to be heard) to not let any spoilers slip I’m at max capacity, kittens. I have to let something out! It’s bad enough I walk around pretending like I didn’t listen to the free U2 album a few 18 times or that I’m not all in when it comes to Viola Davis teaching law students how to be ninja assassins or that I’m never THIS CLOSE to having cookie dough for breakfast every morning or that when I finally get my wits about me and make a cup of coffee I’m not just standing at the counter, staring longingly at that tight tube of butter, flour and chocolate, while softly weeping into my scrambled egg whites. I’m so tired of carrying the weight of the world on my narrow, slightly hunched shoulders, you guyz!
So here’s my secret: I’ve been working on my bathroom. I’ve been working on a lot of things, actually–my temper, my communication skillz, my anger when the coffee lady gives me skim milk WHEN CLEARLY I ASKED FOR HALF-AND-HALF, my temper–but my bathroom is getting most of the attention. I’ve been in my apartment for over two years now, which coincidentally is 20 years shy of my age (and not 30 as my birth certificate would have you believe), and I’m getting more than a little fed up with it. The apartment itself is fantastic. I know this and you and your mom better know this. But, as is human nature, after a lengthy period of monogamy you want to ruin the good thing you have by seeing someone younger and sexier. That’s where I’m at with my place. I love it, but when spend your days like I do, working inside other people’s luxury high-rise sky buckets, how can you come home to your own place and not want to make a few dozen changes here and there at the very least?
I started with the bathroom because it’s the most egregious room in the apartment. Most bathrooms of rental properties are terrible. You know what? No. All. All bathrooms. And kitchens, too! THE WORST. That’s just, like, the 7th Universal Law of Man. And if you don’t believe me then I assume you think yours are *pretty nice? Well, I find that kind of ignorance adorable, my little aardvarks, like someone pushing hard on a door marked ‘pull’. You can try to deny it but being a renter (or a first-time homeowner) means you have a shitty wash closet and an even shittier counter top.
Before I get ahead of myself, let’s get acquainted with my bathroom, WHICH I CALL MISS JACKSON BECAUSE IT’S NASTY:
CUTE, RIGHT????? Like you in college this was an experimental phase for my bathroom, circa last year. I did what I thought was my best at the time, but even MUR decals and some half-mirror bulbs can’t hide that heinous, generic, store-bought, sloth-turd, slithering succubus of light AKA the Hollywood vanity fixture.
Here’s another shot from even earlier, when I first moved in:
EL OH EL I just love this picture. I put a task lamp on the sink and I’m wearing a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off. I WAS SUCH THE COMEDIAN BACK IN THE DAY. No but really 2012 was a year I erased from my mind.
Now, if this were a hearing and I the prosecutor, at this point I would rest, confident that I made my case against rental bathrooms on the whole, but more specifically my own nest of toilet horror. The defense, however, would counter by asserting that questionable styling and misguided decor decisions are to blame, not my bathroom vanity, and that charges should be downgraded from second-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter of my eyes. As the prosecutor I would agree so I would take my two index fingers and tap them repeatedly in a half-hearted attempt at applause, as it is a fair point to make, but then I would present this piece of evidence, highlighting the culprit:
Ignoring for a moment the frightening man-monster I artfully drew, you can see without a doubt the light fixture and medicine cabinet are, in fact, giant assholes. At this point the judge would bang her gavel, the courtroom would erupt in cheers, I would lean over the bar, high-five my students whom I made work on the case for free and then Shonda Rhimes and I would walk hand-in-hand out of the building to a Hall & Oates song. The end. Roll credits, ABC.
But seriously. Something needed to be done. So I got my hammer, took my neighbor’s screwdriver without asking and set off dismantling the tentacled man-monster:
This was me feeling optimistic and grand about the whole endeavor, as you can tell by the fact that I hadn’t yet removed the Hollywood fixture’s mounting plate. (More on that in a second.) An unforeseen causality during the demo was my super-stellar MUR decals. They bit the dust along with the vanity, but other than that so far, so good. I can see what I’m working with and everything seems right with the world. OH JOYOUS DAY!
Now some disturbing news…
Nestled inconspicuously behind the cabinet, on the ledge of a steel frame, was a shekel. “A shekel?” you say. “Yes,” I answer. “Hm, a shekel,” you say again. “Stop repeating what I’m saying and just read the post, jerk,” I scold. I found a shekel behind my medicine cabinet. Normally I wouldn’t think twice about finding a piece of currency in an odd place because HEY we all come home from time to time and throw our money around like we’re Scrooge McDuck taking a lap his money vault. However, on the right hand side doorpost to my apartment is what appears to be the outline of a mezuzah which has since been removed. That, along with the shekel I found and more importantly relocated from behind my bathroom wall, can only mean one of two things: 1) I’ve defiled a Jewish tradition meant to protect my apartment and I’m going to die tomorrow or 2) I’ve lifted a Jewish curse on my home and now I’ll live forever. I’m holding out hope for the latter but if there are any Jews who read this blog please don’t hesitate to speak up as my life is on the line. Thank you.
Back to the vanity. So like I said, aside from the curse on my soul, everything was peaches and baby farts up until this point. It was all breezy. I’ll admit I didn’t have a great fix lined up for this project. I went to IKEA and bought a similar fixture for 15 spanks, and while it still had the same shape it lacked beveled edges or garish-looking plastic aluminum and that was enough for me. Then I decided to hack away at the mounting plate of the Hollywood fixture and shit got real. Really real:
What. The. Fuck.
What your human head lenses are seeing is a junction box installed approximately 5 1/2 inches OFF CENTER. WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK, OLD-TIMEY PEOPLE WHO BUILT MY APARTMENT? What were they thinking! No doubt this had to do with something obnoxious and asinine like a fire code but all I knew as that a hole slightly to the left of center was not a hole I wanted to tango with.
This ruined my plans for a quick and painless $15 IKEA fixture. Just decimated them. Poof! Gone.
I knew I didn’t want to keep the Hollywood fixture under any circumstance, and that decision meant the wall would have to be patched, even if I didn’t know what was going in its place.
That’s just some spackling paste and a spatula I used to fill in the uneven spots, like the holes where the fixture attached to the wall and the edges where years of paint buildup met the fixture. I let it dry then with a fine grit sandpaper–something like 240–leveled the entire slop bucket out so it was as supple as something that is supple.
Oh, wait! Did I mention this part? I put up a new medicine cabinet. Dur. Hello, Evan.
And how! IKEA. $70. The proportions work so much better than the old one. Fills out the space nicely. Me likey.
Back to the vanity light. Once the spackling paste dried I ran downstairs and stole some paint from my super’s utility closet, rolled it out on a piece of cardboard, huffed a bit and painted over everything so it was all one color:
Not bad, right? WRONG. THAT HOLE IS STILL NOT CENTERED, DUMMY.
What to do, what to do? I looked at a ton of options. A ton. A fuck ton, to be precise, but I couldn’t find anything preassembled that would fit this unique requirement. I decided to take a page from my own book and build one because when the chips are down and it’s the 11th hour that’s the time when you want to forget about reinventing the wheel and rest on your laurels!
That’s a variation on the Lindsey Adelman chandelier I (and everyone else) made sometime last year. I won’t go into how I did it because I’ve done that before. You can check out the post I linked to above, or just email me directly if you have any questions. The construction follows the same format as the hanging pendant.
I chose to make my own because the off-centered j-box meant I needed an asymmetrical fixture. This particular fixture, however, with its three sockets feeding into one arm, created some tight spaces to work in, so its important to buy manageable wire gauges to work with. Everyone will tell you to buy 14 gauge–and they’re right!–but if you are creating a fixture like this and you have any more than two sockets running through one arm you will need 18 gauge wire. (Just keep the bulbs at or under 40 watts and you’ll be free from the threat of turning your home into kindling. No promises, though.)
So that’s it! Phase One of the bathroom completed. There are a few more phases to come but I’ll probably be secretive about those, too, until someone shames me into posting about it over social media LIKE SOME OF YOU HAVE BEEN DOING, YOU MONSTERS.
* Should we have a challenge? I love a challenge. All joking aside, if you think your rental bathroom and/or kitchen is decent send me a picture (pre-any work you’ve done to spiff it up, if you can). Prove me wrong. And, no, all you fancy individuals in your turn-key apartments and you exorbitant incomes. You only qualify for this particular contest if your apartment didn’t come with a deadbolt upon move in. How’s that to even the playing field?